Livin' Las Vegas Neek Style
by a former Fatlace Staff Writer
First published in 2009
Every normal kid wants to look good and do their thing. A lot of them think starting a brand or a cool guy blog might be the ticket and end up jumping in and cloning what they deem cool without knowing what lies beneath the surface. At the end of the day, their drive is gone and they've had enough of their fair share of the false, fifteen minute e-fame fix, hardly getting past a paltry logo design and a few forgotten, mediocre blog archives. There's always that exception to the rule, however.
Enter Andrew Buenaflor better known as Neek. Born in New York, the Bronx to be exact, Neek is currently living out his college years in Las Vegas. He caught the Japanese fashion bug through the likes of Warp and Street Jack, two notable Japanese young fashion and culture related magazines he cites as initial portals to this world. An early Vegas transplant, Neek equates the slow-paced Las Vegas lifestyle to lots of time spent on the internet. In a strange way reflecting back on our interview, Sin City may have been a blessing in disguise.
Do whatever interests you, stand out effortlessly, use the internet advantageously, and learn from the upper echelon within the industry. Neek is doing exactly that probably without even realizing it, which led to the e-fame that's slowly transforming into real, long-term value, so long as the cards are played right. And so far, I think they are.
Even back in '02-'03, he was already ahead of his time quite possibly being the only dude at his high school rocking skinny jeans, Nike SB Dunks and long, shaggy hair. Neek quickly gained a following on NikeTalk.com through his WDYWT (What Did You Wear Today) thread posts to the point someone ended up producing sold out Neek tee-shirts based off of a Supreme parody. Let's not forget he was also interviewed for the NY Times, but that's all in the past before he even had a driver's license.
Nowadays, the only difference is that he's busier, more focused and, has accumulated a few extra added toys into his life. His photography (Neek doesn't consider himself a photographer, but instead a documentor), his clothes, his Biancha Pista fixed gear, his whip, and his Japanese porn fetish all assist in rounding out the Neek character.
While Neek's life is becoming more business oriented, the car culture world has become his current release from it all. No business involved here except for the occasional wheel swap amongst cohorts in the xB community. Regardless, Neek takes his hobbies seriously and his ride is definitely an extension of his personality. The current project is a completely blacked-out, 2nd generation Scion xB outfitted on 16"x7" +30 Work Leadsleds, a Chicano-style, discontinued wheel produced by a major Japanese wheel brand. Decals tastefully applied to the Yakima roof rack along with a black-and-white checkered vinyl scheme on the hood accents the xB nicely, standing out from the rest of the pack effortlessly. He's recently lowered his stance significantly and swapped over to a more aggressive 17"x7.5" +20 SSR Vienna Kreis wheel set-up, but already looking to trade for some BBS. I guess the devil is in the details.
Currently, Neek's working on attaining his International Business Management degree at the College of Southern Nevada and currently holds a job at the Stussy store in Las Vegas managing a variety of tasks on a daily basis such as taking product shots, sales and marketing, photoshoots and sometimes even helping to market UNDFTD. His relationship with industry figures such as Chris Julian of Fruition and Eddie Cruz of UNDFTD amongst others has led him from being a fan to becoming an official mover and shaker. For a year and a half stint, there was even a There's Neek link on The Hundreds site, a play off of his Where's Neek blog site. That's similar to a kid back in the day being involved and showcased in the print catalog of his favorite clothing brand, but with a bigger audience. That’s huge (no pun intended). He was showcasing the Las Vegas lifestyle through his photoblog on the well-known Hundreds site until he was offered the gig at Stussy LV through Chris.
If you've never met Neek, his online persona might seem a bit mysterious, creepy even. What else would you expect from a self-proclaimed professional lurker. And although his real personality has a straight up, non-corny, I'll-tell-you-how-I'm-really-feeling type of vibe, he also delivers a certain respect for older folk that they can appreciate.
What I found really surprising is that Neek is currently only 20 years of age. That's probably why there's such little pretense, or none at all. Neek is refreshing in that sense. It's good to get a head start so long as you don't burn out. It's good to love what you do without being too conscious of others around you. While many are unable to show their real personalities and hide behind computer screen alter egos, he's the exact opposite. Whereas you may meet someone who seems normal online and turns out being socially inept, Neek's far from it. His personality is real, rough, rugged and raw with an unmistakable charm. It's gotta be the age.
In order to take the next progressive step, Neek will need to continue to walk that fine line between staying relevant and having fun all the while continuing to network correctly and hone his skills. And that's an extremely tough thing to do. Most feed off of the attention and once their relevancy is lost, so is their focus and drive. Others end up having too much fun, also losing their focus and drive in the end. Some simply become jaded over time. And the rest will ride the wave as long as they possibly can until they realize they'll need to produce in order to keep it moving. Personally, I'm rooting for Neek to rise above all that at a steady pace, in due time.
I'm really interested in seeing what will come about from the successful bunch of this loosely categorized type of individuals, Neek included. Those that have a keen sense of business and style, usually ahead of the curve, not socially inept, are interested in various things, and seem to be able to make life work for them. A jack of all trades in which productivity and creativity come naturally. It's never only about the money for these folk. I can only hope that the higher-up powers-that-be realize how productive certain individuals can be and continue to help mold the next generation correctly. And I hope the next generation don't lose their focus and become jaded. And instead they really plan ahead, think long term, strategically, respectfully, creatively, with business savvy and tact, and take their sweet time. It's always about the business, but ultimately, with a holistic approach and a real interest and respect for the creative. Like the account executive that understands, nurtures and meshes seamlessly with the creative side. And vice versa. Peace.
Neighborhood, Visvim, Double Taps, Supreme, Stussy
"I'm all about the plain white tee look, my 2007 Black Flash Savage Neighborhood denim and a pair of red wings. That dirty, after-working-on-a-car-look or something. But you still gotta rock the $400 denim. It’s also more simple these days. You can’t be wearing the lime green or the orange. More simple, muted tones, black, white. Classic Americana style. But right now, I rock mostly plain old Dickies now, Grey/Khaki/Blue. Get them dirty and don't care I love 'em!"
"I've been rocking Supreme. That was like my number one.. that was my brand. It was Supreme strictly for me. Angelo is director of marketing for Supreme. I was reppin' them to the fullest. As far as Supreme, I can't say I worked for them, but whenever new shit comes out, I'll put it on my blog and Hypebeast will use it."
On Chris Julian (Fruition):
"I met Chris Julian, worked there for a year in 2005 and helped them start Fruition. I helped with the marketing, like internet blogging, guerilla marketing, viral marketing, things needed in the whole circle of how to run a shop. I learned the marketing and business side and started meeting everyone through the industry. Chris is pretty much the bossman of Vegas, he runs UNDFTD, Stussy and Fruition. He runs Vegas pretty much."
On Eddie Cruz (UNDFTD):
"Coolest guy ever, Eddie Cruz. That's the dude. Really humble guy, really nice, like very authentic, very real. Even though he runs everything, coolest guy in the industry."
On Car Culture in Vegas:
"I think car culture here is dope. I chill with the bB squad. We'll roll out, like 20 of us, hit up a couple of car shops, it's cool. It's not really business oriented."
"Cars fascinate me more currently right now. It changes my mood just being around cars. It's a whole different kind of people. When the dude steps out of their car, it's like dude, oh man, I never would have thought you owned that car."
On Las Vegas:
"There's no beach, the parks suck. That's why I go to all the Scion meets.
Las Vegas is like a mirage, man. We're in the middle of the desert, literally.
The culture here is really bleak. That's how I see Vegas. Lots of people are transplants.
The realness isn't there. It lacks a vibe. The culture is growing, but not as fast as LA or NY. That's why UNDFTD and Stussy are here. We want kids to come in and get knowledge. We want kids to come and hang out and not just to shop. We want kids to feel comfortable and show them what's up. That's why I'm gonna do a show next month at the shop. Throw more events, bring people together. We're cool people at the store.
You don't have to be scared of us."
On Neek's Bike:
"My bike is a Bianchi Pista. It's been powderecoated many times. As my mood changes my bike changes. It was Forest green before. But now it's Hot pink, blue and red flakes. I had a Lime green aero spoke. But now just the Lime green deep V's. I love my Toshi double straps. A friend gave 'em to me for 20 bucks and that changed everything. I dont think I can skid stop without them."
On House of Commons & Critical Mass:
"They left not too long ago, but the good thing about them is they brought the Fixed Gear Culture to Las Vegas. When they were here, they brought all the people that rode bikes man. Met up in front of the shop and held events together. It actually started this whole trend in Vegas. We rode down the strip, there's a good 20-30 of us, and now there are over 100 bikes that ride with us. They were from SF and brought it here. They brought a little culture here."
"Critical Mass is every last friday of the month. We went around Vegas over 100 of us on fixed gear bikes. We ride the strip. Imagine the strip filled with bikes."
On Japanese Girls (& porn):
"I'm a big fan of Japanese girls. I like their pale skin, I like girls that are skinny, innocent looking and honest. Their hair and style, you know the dyed orange/blonde hair, gyaru type. Those types of girls. It's all about porn. I don't like the mainstream girls, but I do like alot of porn stars. Any girl with big hair that's pale and orange, like a gyaru type, I'm down."
"Shanghainese girl in New York. That's like a real girl that I talk to. Her name is Jen Lu, she's a graphic designer. Ugh, I love that girl. Everytime I go to NY, I hang out w/ that girl. She did the Ice Cream Skate DVD cover. She works for Lowe. We go out to lunch, but it doesn't go past that. Damn it!"
"It's like a secret code. I can't be messing around with certain brands because I work with the higher ups."
"It's all a family. Supreme, Union, UNDFTD. I think of it as a mob. To be cool with us you gotta know us."